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May 13, 2022
Tornado south of Crowell, Texas on May 4th, 2022
I am chasing storms for Channel 10 KFDA, in Amarillo this year. It is a part time gig, but I love doing it. I love Channel 10; they are involved in a lot of the charities in town and the cast and crew there are wonderful folks.
The hat makes it official
|I woke up May 4th needing to be in Ft Worth the next day and storms forecasted between here in Amarillo and Ft. Worth so about noon, I started out hoping my trip would allow me to catch a few storms in photos... boy little did I know!|
As I started out of Amarillo, a storm popped up and I chased it a bit, but no real photo ops came up. I did see a lot of smaller hail but off I went to the Clarendon area where a good chance of violent storms was forecasted.
The storm building near Paducah, Texas.
The storm was already circulating strongly near Paducah. Here is a time lapse video on my You Tube Chanel that I did of the storm at this point. We continued south on hwy 83 out of Paducah. The sky grew more ominous by the mile.
Something that is becoming an issue is what is known as "chaser convergence". Forecasting models are easier and easier to understand and radar makes real time storm chasing something that affords any one the ability to track a storm. Storm chasing has become extremely popular. I used to live outside of Childress near Paducah and have hunted and hiked a lot of this land. It is normally pretty deserted. It is not uncommon to see no one on the highway. But today, I am not joking when I say there were several hundred cars. Check out a video of the traffic on my YOU TUBE channel.
Tornado south of Paducah, Texas.
Normally the storm is less dangerous to me than that traffic. The recent years have seen several traffic fatalities of chasers. In 2016 I was hit by a car as I photographed a storm from the bar ditch, not even on the shoulder. The sad reality is the traffic is as dangerous as the storm with people watching the storm more than the road.
"Normally". I have storm chased since 2013 and part of that in a professional paid capacity. I am not saying I am an expert, but I feel comfortable. Perhaps to comfortable.
Let me paint the scene before you watch the video. I am doing a time lapse of a storm rotating, dropping a tornado, perhaps a half mile or more away. My chase partner, Doug Black (40-year veteran of professional storm chasing) yells at me, "Well, do you just want to stay here until the tornado picks us up?"
The good photo I got of the rotation (I am still not certain it is fair to call it a tornado)
I didn't realize the sky was rotating right above. Keep in mind the Tornado on the ground that I was videoing was moving away from us. He pointed up and I pointed my phone up shortly before the ground exploded around me as that rotation picked up all the dirt and gravel and grass around me... and ME!
Now I got so lucky in that it threw me into the side of my truck and into the truck. My guardian angel was working overtime. Check out the video.
The Storm from a Distance
Glutton for the storm, I continued after it. No serious damage to me or the truck other than a few dings and major bruises. We had to go the long way to catch up with the storm. Paducah to Guthrie to Benjamin to south of Crowell. The image above is looking at the storm north of us from between Guthrie and Benjamin.
My frist view of what would become a tornado south of Crowell, Texas.
Rolling as fast as legal north from Bejamin to south of Crowell the sky got darker and darker. This is my first view of what would become another confirmed Tornado.
South of Crowell.
A close up of the Tornado south of Crowell picking up the dirt (see the photo I started with)
This Tornado appeared in fairly empty field. It went through several Wind Turbines, and I have one photo I am still working on of that, which is out of focus. The fish that got away, this would have been THE shot. Oh well... It was getting dark at this point. So leaving the storm behind in the dark, I traveled on to Ft. Worth for my art show which was a marvelous success!
I want to take a minute and be very serious about something. I have had many friends reach out to me about storm chasing. Before you ever do something like that, I strongly advise taking some classes and chasing with someone very much a veteran. I chase with Doug Black who has done it professionally for 40 years. When Doug says it is time to go, it is time to go.
This rotation that landing on me and lifted me up could have very easily killed me. I am still limping. We were photographing/videoing a tornado a half a mile to mile away from us that was moving away from our location. This was very much a surprise to both of us.
But that is what makes storms so dangerous, the unpredictability of them. This rotation (I am still not certain it is fair to say it was a tornado) came out of nowhere and hit me in an instance.
I got two photos of it and a messy video. This one clearly shows the rotation. My camera had a wide-angle lens so this is far closer than it looks. Like in a moment it moved right over the top of me and seems only 20 feet or so above.
The other thing that is becoming very very dangerous is the traffic. In 2016 I was hit by a car while doing photography in the bar ditch. It threw me 10 feet and resulted in several surgeries and honestly changed my life, I suffer from a lot of mobility issues.
So why do I do it. Well, I have kind of made a career out of such photography. Since my 20's I have been with a camera in all kinds of very dangerous situations. But the sky is something that I just am utterly fascinated with. I suppose it's like a person who hunts rattle snakes. I love it more than I am afraid of the danger. Van Goh once said, he loved the stars too much to be afraid of the dark.
All that said, any more chases I am doubling down on safety issues.
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